September 26, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 17  

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Looking at the price of food on campus

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

If the prices of food on campus make you lose your appetite, a little bargain hunting may do some good. Although many students may not be aware of it, there are ways to avoid paying an arm and a leg for a bite to eat.

CentreSpot is a hub of activity at lunch time every weekday. However, it may not be the best choice for the thrifty spender. For example, a 591 ml bottle of Dasani water is $1.99 at CentreSpot, while the same product is just $1.29 at The Pit Stop (both before taxes).

"All of our franchises dictate their own prices. Some give a little leeway, but very little," said Kevin McCabe, associate director, hospitality services. Hospitality Services is in charge of food outlets such as Tim Hortons, CentreSpot, vending machines, as well as the on and off campus meal plans, he explained.

"About 70 per cent of our prices are dictated by the franchises," McCabe said. With respect to the other 30 per cent of food offered by Hospitality Services, prices are determined with the aim to break even. "We do not get any money from the university," he said. "We need to ensure that we're not a financial drain on the university."

Thirty-eight per cent of the price you pay for food at CentreSpot (with the exception of the franchises) and other Hospitality food outlets pays for the cost of the food itself, said McCabe. The remaining 62 percent, therefore, pays expenses such as labour, rent, upgrades and building new operations.

"We do pricing surveys on all universities across Canada once a year," McCabe said. This is another factor in determining prices. "The goal is to be competitive [with other university prices]."

The Pit Stop is not owned by Hospitality Services, rather, it is an operation of the University Students' Council. Carla Di Pietro, the manager of The Pit Stop, said prices are determined "on a [standard] basis plus some common sense." The profit margin is 30 per cent on average, she explained, although some products like cigarettes are sold with a much lower margin because they are so expensive already.

The Pit Stop is notable for carrying some stock you will not find anywhere else on campus, like bulk candy and frozen dinners. "We even have a microwave," Di Pietro added.

The Wave and The Spoke are also owned by the USC. "We try to keep prices low," said Dan Smith, the manager of these two bar/restaurants.

"The Spoke is the most affordable place to eat on campus," Smith said, adding it is designed as a self-serve restaurant in order to keep prices low. The portion of the price you pay that covers the cost of food is 50 per cent, thus the other 50 per cent goes to expenses and profit.

"Compared to other roadhouse style restaurants, you can't beat the quality and value," said Andrew Mes, manager of The Spoke.

At The Wave, food cost is about 40 per cent of the price you pay, Smith said, adding this is because The Wave offers full service.

"It's ridiculously expensive, meal card or not; you're still paying exorbitant amounts," said Chris Maxwell, a third-year immunology and microbiology student.

"With the meal plan I don't even notice the price of food on campus," said Colin Thomson, a third-year chemical engineering student.



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